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Lanka eyes Doha medal after 4 x 100m. success at SAG



The gold medal winning Sri Lanka women’s 4 x 100m relay squad. pic. by Chaminda Hitteyiage

SA GAMES: Sri Lanka, over the years, has produced many outstanding women sprinters. Besides the IAAF World Championship silver medallist and Olympic bronze medallist Susanthika Jayasinghe, there have been may other leading women sprinters who have been dominating from time to time.

Over the years, Sri Lanka has regularly produced many champion 100m and 200m runners. As a result, the women's 4 x 100m relay has been one of our strongest events at regional level.

Sri Lanka has either won the gold or silver medal at all ten South Asian Games held so far. That has been mainly due to the outstanding contributions of some of the top most sprinters like Susanthika Jayasinghe, Damayanthi Darsha, Sriyani Kulawansa Fonseka, Ineka Cooray and Jani Chathurangani Silva to name a few.

Of the ten South Asian Games held so far since 1984 to 2006, Sri Lanka has bagged gold medals on four occasions while they have won silver at all six remaining instances. It will be interesting to see how Sri Lanka's timing progressed in women's 4 x 100m since the inaugural SA Games.

At the first SA Games in Kathmandu, they clocked 47.80 seconds in securing the silver. In fact, Sri Lanka had to be content with the silver medal at the first four South Asian Games - 47.80 in Kathmandu 1984, 48.70 in Dhaka 1985, 47.15 in Calcutta 1987 and 46.90 in Islamabad 1989.

Sri Lanka's first South Asian Games gold medal in 4 x 100m relay was registered when they first hosted the Games in 1991. Sri Lanka clocked a Games record timing of 45.71 seconds to secure the gold medal at 1991 Colombo Games while the four-time previous gold medallists India settled for the silver in 46.30 seconds.

Having won the silver in Dhaka 1993 with a timing of 45.96 seconds, Sri Lanka once again won the gold in women's 100m relay in Madras 1995 with a new Games record timing of 44.74 seconds. India which was placed second was way behind with an unimpressive timing of 46.21 seconds. But Sri Lanka could hold the record for only two years as India bounced back at the very next Games to win the gold in 44.71 in Kathmandu 1999.

When Sri Lanka hosted the 10th South Asian Games, they came in as the reigning champions of this event, having kissed the gold in Islamabad 2004 with a timing of 46.13 seconds. Sri Lanka's champion women's 100m relay team at Islamabad SA Games comprised Achala Alles, Sriyani Kulawansa Fonseka, Jani Chathurangani Silva and Sujani Buddhika.

In fact, two members of this 'golden team' remained when Sri Lanka won the 4 x 100m relay gold at Sugathadasa Stadium last month. The other two members were Susanthika Jayasinghe and D.D.A. Priyadharshani.

Sri Lanka started the 100m relay with Priyadharshani, who gave the baton to Silva for the second lap. Sujani Buddhika did the third lap and gained a considerable advantage before Jayasinghe did the anchor lap.

Veteran coach Dervin Perera, who was in-charge of the overall training of the team, said the women's 4 x 100m relay has been one of the most advantageous for Sri Lanka in Asian and South Asian circuit.

But, Perera said Sri Lanka's performance is not depicting their true capabilities. "The baton change in the first and second laps between Priyadharshani and Jani was not that good. But that went perfectly between Jani and Sujani, then between Sujani and Susanthika," he said.

Perera feels that Jayasinghe did not run all out in the anchor lap. "She had fair reasons for that. One is the fact that we were in the lead when she got the baton and she only had to maintain that lead. On the other hand, she could not take chances as she had to run in the 100m final on the following day. Under the circumstances, I feel, that the girls did well to secure the gold with a calculated effort," Perera explained.

Perera, one of the most successful coaches in Sri Lanka who guided Jayasinghe to win the women's 200m silver at the 1997 IAAF World Championship in Athens and Sriyani Kulawansa to secure the women's 100m hurdles silver medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, sees a bright future for Sri Lanka in the 100m relay.

"We have a good chance of going for a medal at the 15th Asian Games in Doha. If we plan well and give of our best, I don't see why our girls cant go for a medal at Doha Games," he continued.

Despite losing Silva, who is in the centre of a doping controversy Perera, who is also the President of the AASL, feels that Sri Lanka could still press for a medal. "If we can get either Darsha or long jumper Priyadharshani to join Sujani, D.D.A. Priyadharshni and Susanthika, we still have a chance," he concluded.

Meanwhile, Silva's dope test hearing has taken a new turn after she rejected a 'B' sample testing. She has been tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid Nandralone during the eight-nation Games. Both her urine samples taken after women's 100m and 4 x 100m relay have been tested positive.

If found guilty, not only Silva would lose both the medals but Sri Lanka's hard-earned 4 x 100m gold too would be at risk.

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